The Olympics: yikes. So China, a country governed by a repressive and corrupt autocracy that buys oil from Darfur and gets away with all of it because its citizens are used to a whole lot worse and so, in fact, are most citizens of most countries...well China thought it would be a neat idea to do this epic six-continent Olympic torch relay in the lead-up to the Beijing summer Olympics. (Okay, it wasn't their idea, but it was the longest ever torch relay, like the Great Wall or something.) The French apparently had other ideas! The torch had to be re-routed three times before they gave up on the whole Paris leg of the trip. Now Hillary Clinton is calling for George W. Bush to boycott the ceremonies. (Seriously, Hillary Clinton who visited China to celebrate women and how they like to abort them or somesuch back when you were First Lady?) (To be fair, she chastised them over that and got censored.) This is a pic of French tennis player Arnaud di Pasquale looking dismayed. (And unrelatedly: hot.) In the words of a Dutch pro-Tibet protester: "You almost have to feel sorry for the Chinese." [Politico]
To begin, this is a really fantastic, fabulous and incredible article about Tibet, and its relationship with China. The guy who wrote it is fantastic, and extremely thorough in his research. He also got to spend a significant period of time in China and Tibet for research purposes (lucky dude).
For as much as I dislike and disagree with the Chinese government and its politics, I feel like a lot of the calls to boycott the Olympics ignore 1. China's international history and 2. the potential benefits of having a really successful Olympic games in China. On the one hand, China has been an isolationist country since its inception; never friendly with its neighbors (its feud with Japan, while obviously worsened by Japanese monstrosities during WWII, stretches back thousands of years), has never been particularly keen with extensive international trade, etc. It has always had a very strong national identity, and it has always fought to preserve that identity as purely as possible. I've always thought that the Maoist revolution — the Cultural Revolution, to be exact — was supremely ironic in the face of China's history, as it sought to wipe that ancient culture off the map in favor of Marxist Communism. And, y'know, we all know how well that went.
It's important to recognize, I think, that China is and ahs been for a long time now, under the control of a totalitarian regime, which by definition is a kind of political regime that seeks to identify reality as one thing and then impose that version of reality onto its people, its country, its press and its foreign relations without any concern as to whether that reality is particularly true. Hence the weirdness we see now, as China trumpets its fast-growing international economy in the face of news that it is the most polluted country on earth. Point "A" (most polluted) does not connect to Point "B" (our economy rules!) except for in the minds of party leaders who are happy to accept and create all kinds of falsehoods in order to make themselves believe that China is what its ideology says it is (do y'all follow?) Hence, how "human rights violations" turns into "Chinese pride!"
But I think that having the Olympics in China could do wonderful things for the country, in that it could really energize a lot of people to become more vocal and active in forcing regime change. There was, remember, a sharp increase in the Chinese standing up for their rights after the fall of the USSR in 1989 (climaxing with Tiennamen Square); likewise the infusion of foreigners in China and especially in Beijing could lead to a local open dialogue that may have long-lasting and far-reaching effects that none of us could or would anticipate. It could end up doing a lot of good.
And, plus, I need my gymnastics like some woah.